How to Use Instagram to Increase Your Course Sales For Free

Elise Darma

| Jun 07, 2018

Pop quiz!

When you think of using Instagram to grow your course sales, your first thought is:

a) “OMG I can’t get enough!”

b) “Everyday I’m posting. And everyday I’m seeing new sales.”

c) “Instagram is my number 1 priority each day because it WORKS.”

d) “LOL Instagram is that app I use to kill time when I’m waiting in line at Starbucks…”

Based on my years of (unscientific) research, the majority of business owners and course creators fall into the last camp where they believe there’s no ROI from Instagram.

As a fellow online business owner, I get it.

You’re probably heads-down, focused on revenue-generating tasks in your business and Instagram is nowhere near that radar.

You might be feeling crunched for time, overwhelmed, stressed about your monthly expenses or sales targets… and Instagram is an after-thought.

Here’s the thing.

When it comes to your courses, products or offers, people buy because of YOU. Because they know, like and trust you.

Isn’t that the case for most – if not all – of the offerings you sell? 

And these days, it’s imperative that you build your audience before you’re in launch mode for your course.

How does your audience get to know you before you’re running your next course launch?

Through social media. Specifically, Instagram.

Instagram is the best platform today for your audience to get to know and trust you… so that when they’re ready to buy or when you’re running your next launch, they’re already sold before your offer is even in front of them.

Instagram Is Your Own Reality TV Show

These days, your smartphone is like what the TV was back in the 1950s – the new hub for news and entertainment.

Now, the TV is being phased out (just like radio was at that time) and the smartphone is the new hub.

In that context, each social app that you have on your smartphone is a CHANNEL, similar to ABC, NBC and FOX.

YouTube is your sitcom channel, where people watch reruns and the views continue to grow.

Facebook is your talk show channel, where you decide a weekly time slot and go live each week while engaging with your viewers.

The podcast app is your radio show where people tune in while on the go.

And Instagram? Instagram is your own reality TV show.

Instagram is the go-to app where you share the journey and the behind-the-scenes of your life as a course creator and educator.

Plus, when you’re sharing the behind the scenes, not only are viewers able to get to know you on a deeper level, but they’re also seeing the work you’re creating on your OTHER channels – your blog, Facebook live show and podcast, for example.

As you share your journey and give sneak peeks of your upcoming projects, launches and products, your followers are invited to get to know you and your business on a level that’s unlike anywhere else.

Plus, as you share the behind-the-scenes of your work with your students inside your courses, as well as those student success stories, outside viewers will experience a little FOMO (fear of missing out)... and you bet they’ll want to be inside your course the next chance they get so they can get that high-touch experience with you for themselves.

And another bonus: even if they are not needing your course today, they still have the drive to follow you – to keep up with your journey. (Who doesn’t love seeing how a story ends?)

As you continue to stay interesting and relevant to them, your followers will sign up for your course the day that they need it.

The Key To Instagram That Most Course Creators Miss

Whether you have 0, 20 or 1,000 Instagram followers today, you can attract the right followers who will turn into students of your courses.

Your goal? Attract quality followers over quantity.

That’s right. You don’t need 50,000 followers on Instagram to make an impact to your course sales.

Even with 100 followers, you can generate sales from Instagram. It’s possible! Even if 3% of your followers convert and join your course, that’s 3 students you didn’t have before.

Here’s the thing: it takes dedication and consistency to grow one account well that attracts your target follower.

But most online business owners and course creators? They typically have two accounts! One for their personal life (cute kids, food pics, funny selfies) and another for their business life (very professional, everything branded to a T, posts that look like ads).

The key to growing a high quality following is to grow ONE account that’s a happy medium between the two accounts that most entrepreneurs juggle.

Use the ONE account to grow a personal brand that’s both of a mix of your business and personal life.

This means we’re going to scale back on the personal content that doesn’t relate to your target follower at all… and we’re going to add more of a human element to your business-related posts.

Think: less sales driven and more people driven.

The reason we do this relates to the first point: followers enroll in your courses because they know, like and trust YOU as the course teacher.

As a personal brand, you want to choose between two to five themes that you’ll share on a consistent basis. These are themes related to you and your business, but also themes that your target or ideal student can relate to.

For example: if you’re a jewelry maker whose ideal customer is a women ages 25-30 who believes in sustainable living, loves animals and isn’t waiting around for a man to buy her a piece of jewelry… then as a personal brand, you can share posts related to these themes:

  • Your pet
  • Your dating life or love life
  • Your green beauty products
  • Your 100 mile diet
  • Your independence, motivation and drive

These themes don’t specifically relate to jewelry (and that’s the point), but they all speak to and attract that ideal customer so that they actually care about you and your business, as well as your jewelry that resonates with them.

Optimize Your Instagram Profile To Be A Strong Personal Brand

Here are a few tips on how you can optimize your one profile to be an impactful personal brand that drives course sales to your business.

The Username

Your Username is also known as your Instagram handle. For example: mine is @EliseDarma.

As a personal brand, you want this field of your profile to be as close to your personal brand name as possible.

Keep it simple and memorable. And avoid long, complicated, hard-to-read or double entendre letter combinations.

If your exact name is already taken, consider adding in one of these symbols or words:

  • .
  • -
  • co
  • the
  • school

The Name

The Name field is the juicy part of your Instagram profile. Why? Because it’s searchable!

This is where you share a targeted keyword or two that your ideal followers are ALREADY searching for on Instagram.

Not sure what keywords your target follower is using?

Ask yourself:

  • What NICHE is your account in? Travel, fashion, business, health, etc.
  • What is the PURPOSE of your account?
  • WHO is your ideal follower?

For example: the NICHE for my @EliseDarma account is travel. The PURPOSE of my account is to help others travel more by starting their own freelance business. My IDEAL follower is someone who is interested in travel and becoming a digital nomad. So in my Name field, I've used the keywords "Digital Nomad Entrepreneur."

You only have 30 characters for this field, so take your time finding the best search-friendly keywords.

The Bio

 This is where you showcase your personal brand as a course creator and let a future follower know what the value is in following you.

In 150 characters or less, you need to describe WHO you help and HOW you help them, plus include a compelling call-to-action to your link.

For example: if you teach people how to make their own jewelry, the Bio could say that you help budding designers tap into their talents through the art of custom-made jewelry.

This lets a potential follower know the VALUE they get by choosing to follow your account. Be clear about what they’re in for! Don’t be afraid to use the lingo and jargon of your target follower, too.

Next, don’t forget the all-important call-to-action to the ONE link in your Bio! That’s right – with Instagram, you have just one link that you can drive people to (that is, until you hit 10K followers and can use the “swipe up” feature in your Stories to share multiple links).

The last line of your Bio needs to tell people WHY they should click on the one link you're given to share on your profile. What’s in it for them? Be specific.

It could lead to:

  • Your latest blog post
  • A free guide
  • Your latest YouTube video
  • A 10% discount code to your product shop

Finally, don't be afraid to use emojis to add some personality, or save on character space to get your message across.

How to Attract Your Targeted Followers On Instagram

Now that your Instagram profile is polished up, you’ve already come further than most online course creators – so kudos to you!

But let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of how you can grow on Instagram to reach 1,000 or 10,000 highly targeted followers that will become course students.

Two major things will help you reach 1,000 quality followers: content shared in your posts on your feed and content shared in your Instagram Stories.

What you share in your Stories will become the content for your Highlights, which are the “bubbles” below your Bio that permanently live on your profile, directly on top of all your posts.

Highlights are gold. They are like your own mini personal brand website – without followers even having to leave the app.

The Types Of Content To Share In Your Feed

First, let’s talk about the content of your feed, and the KIND of posts you can share. A lot of course creators get stuck at this part so here’s a list of posts that I find do very well on a feed in 2018:

Personal Images

These are of yourself, your workspace, your lifestyle, etc. Basically, images that represent those themes you already chose for yourself as a personal brand. 

10 - @kickassmasterminds personal image


9 - @elisedarma personal image


Quote Cards

Create quotes that literally speak directly to your target follower. Inspire them! Entertain them! Educate them. (I like to use Canva to makes these for free, and Pinterest is a great resource for inspiration.)

11 - @talkingshrimpnyc quote card


12 - @elisedarma quote card


Copyright-Free Stock photos

Stock photos aren’t all cheesy! There are amazing, high-quality sites like that offer very Instagram-friendly photos. With curation, stock photos can take your feed far.

14 - @canupycontent - stock photo


13 - @elisedarma - stock photo


Reposted Images

It’s best to get permission from the original poster first and then give their handle credit the caption. But some big accounts only share other people’s images! It’s possible to grow using just this tactic.

16 - @theeverygirl_ - reposted image


15 - @risingtidesociety - reposted image



These can be quick snippets filmed while on-the-go and edited using apps on your phone, or even reposted from your Stories.

18 - @elisedarma video-1


17 - @lewishowes video-1


How To Optimize The Content You Share In Your Feed

To grow, I find that your content (AKA your posts) have a HUGE impact on how fast you grow and the quality of followers you attract. Consistency is definitely key (posting once a day seems to be the sweet spot for most) but there is also strategy to your content game.

Let’s cover HOW your content in your feed can attract your target follower and future course student.

When it comes to posting content, I like to use the acronym CHECT.


Instagram is a visual platform. Your content in your feed needs to be high quality (in resolution, framing and editing) and consistent to what attracts your ideal follower.


It’s best if you use hashtags that are targeted to your niche, industry and the lifestyle interests of your target follower. Avoid using hashtags that have millions of posts already as they’ll likely attract bot accounts or spammy comments.


Notice I didn’t say “engageMENT.” By engaging, I mean you need to engage with the comments on your posts by replying back, and engage with other accounts that recently used the same hashtags you’re targeting (because they are likely your ideal follower!)


Think of your captions as mini or micro blogs. Use this space to share value (educate, entertain or inspire), tell stories about yourself or your students, share student wins, and to give hacks or tips that your target follower and future student would find insanely helpful.


By tagging, I’m referring to a few spots like the location of the post or your location when sharing the post, as well as other accounts that can be seen in your post that should be tagged (for example: brands, other people’s handles, repost or feature accounts or big accounts in your industry).

By using CHECT each and every time you post on your feed, your content will attract and resonate with your target follower who’ll most likely become a course student.

How To Use Instagram Stories To Increase Your Course Sales

Using Instagram Stories is the second component to attracting your 1,000 quality followers.

But how do you know the difference between what to post in your feed versus what to post in your Stories? 

As a general rule of thumb, put your best foot forward with high-quality posts and captions in your feed, and share your behind-the-scenes, raw moments and your “journey” in your Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories can help boost your course sales in two ways: by driving attention to your latest posts and by becoming permanent Highlights saved on your profile.

Boost Engagement To Your Posts with Instagram Stories

Since the newsfeed of Instagram is no longer chronological, all your followers may not see your newest post in their feed.

This is where Instagram Stories come in handy!

You can use them to drive attention to your latest post in a few ways:

  • Share a screenshot of your new post in your Stories and have fun with the text, gifs and eraser tools to create curiosity
20 - d
  • Share a screenshot of your feed with the latest and newest post hidden behind an emoji or blurb of copy
21 - b
  • Ask a question and let your followers know that the answer is in the caption of your latest post
22 - b
  • Share a poll with your audience. Tell them that you shared your thoughts on this topic in your latest post… so they have to go there to find out what you think!
23 - b

Increase Course Sales Through Instagram Highlights

24 - Demo of Highlights

Your Instagram Stories are an excellent place to be consistent on sharing those THEMES you already selected as part of your personal brand.

Why? What you share in your Stories can later be saved as Highlights on your profile (those “bubbles” that live right below your Bio).

Highlights are hugely powerful on Instagram because they are like your own mini personal brand website – without followers having to leave the app!

As a course creator, you want these Highlights to mimic the topics you’ve already featured in your website’s navigation bar, as well as feature tangible peeks at your course and student successes.

Here are some ideas for Highlights you could feature on your profile:

  • Top Tips
  • Faves
  • Student Reviews
  • Contact Me
  • Team
  • Podcast
  • Tutorials
  • Freebies
  • Templates
  • Weekly Review

By strategically sharing updates in your Stories that can be saved as evergreen content in your Highlights, new followers will quickly get a sense of your expertise as a course creator within the first few moments of finding your profile.

This helps them get to know, like and trust you very quickly!

Instagram Growth Is About Consistency

By now, you’ve likely gotten the sense that consistency is key with Instagram.

Stick with it, aim for quality over quantity, and keep going until you reach 10,000 followers.

This will unlock the “swipe up” feature, which will allow you to share even more links with your followers in your Stories (helloooo blog post links, podcast links, video links, freebie links and course sales pages).

Plus, your followers will appreciate seeing your journey along the way to 10K.

...Which will only help them get to know, like and trust you. 😉


If you’re ready to get your next 1,000 followers, take the next step with this free masterclass: 3 Secrets To Gain 1,000 Instagram Followers in 30 Days WITHOUT Ads, An Existing Audience, or Press.

The class is perfect for anyone who’s running an online or local business.

Register for the free masterclass now while it’s still up! 

Elise Darma has grown Instagram accounts for clients since 2013 and now runs a 6-figure agency and educational company all about Instagram marketing. Her accounts have collectively reached over 250,000 followers and she's been featured by Forbes and Entrepreneur for her work as a marketer, business owner and digital nomad.